13 August 2012

Saint-Aignan's annual brocante / vide-grenier

On the subject of our five a.m. appointment in town yesterday, the train station was a good guess. But no cigar — and in fact, the local train station is not even in Saint-Aignan. It's across the river in Noyers, and it's not "downtown" over there either. One of the realities here is that the train stations are often not in the center of town but outside, or even across the river.

No, Keir of course got it right (well, nearly), and that's normal because she and her husband live about five miles down the road, on the other side of Saint-Aignan. Our rendez-vous was with friends of ours who live down on the market square in old Saint-Aignan. They recently sold a house that they rented out to tourists, and they had decided to sell the furniture, linens, and small appliances from that house, also on the square, at Saint-Aignan's annual brocante / vide-grenier yesterday. We weren't selling anything ourselves.

There was lots of "junque" for sale on the market square
in Saint-Aignan yesterday

A brocante is a second-hand store. A vide-grenier — literally "empty [your] attic" — is the closest thing we have here in France to an American yard sale or garage sale. On the middle Sunday in August, more or less, the streets of Saint-Aignan are transformed into a big flea market.

A street leading up from the river into old-town Saint-Aignan

Professional brocanteurs (who deal in second-hand goods) bring in truckloads of stuff — furniture, glasses and dishes, old DVDs, CDs, and books — anything, really — and set up stalls and booths in town. Local residents haul whatever they want to get rid of out onto the streets and sidewalks. It's an all-day event, and it's well-attended, judging from the cars parked everywhere, including along the shoulders of the roads leading into town.

I really wanted the little chest of drawers in this picture,
but I finally decided against buying it.

Click on the picture with your mouse to enlarge it.

We had told our friends D., C., and S. that we'd be there at 5 a.m. to start helping them carry out furniture, dishes, and linens and to set up tables for their display. I think we surprised them by being on time. When we walked up to the house (having left the car in a parking lot by the bridge, sort of on the edge of town), D. heard us and stuck his head out the kitchen window on the second floor. He laughed and came downstairs in his bathrobe to let us in.

Looking down a side street in old Saint-Aignan

D. started making coffee and toast as we sat around the table and talked. In a minute or two, C. came down, all dressed and ready, to have breakfast too. She was probably surprised to see us so early, too, but happy about it. Around six, as dawn broke, we starting carting things out. We set up trestle tables. We hauled out shelving units and bookcases to hold small kitchen items and knicknacks. Other vendors arrived and started setting up too, and the first customers started looking the loot over and asking what other kinds of things we would be bringing out of the old house.

I understand that the little house on the square
that we call La Maison Bleue is for sale.

Walt and I had an ulterior motive for arriving so early in Saint-Aignan. We of course wanted to pitch in and help our friends get set up. But we also wanted to have first chance — the "right of refusal" — at some of the things they were selling. We ended up buying a couple of tabletop lamps, a set of eight like-new Grosfillex patio chairs, and other odds and ends.


  1. That industrial stool in the image with the dresser?
    We bought four of them for our kitchen. They are not only good to look at, they are surprisingly comfortable.

  2. Wonder how much those copper pots and such went for. They look like a professional set.

  3. Ah, so that was it !!
    It sounds like you got some real bargains. It also looks like St-Aignan's vide-grenier has a better class of junque than we often see at other vide-greniers. It takes some doing to spot a bargain amongst all the broken toys, worn out boots and souveniers of Alsace......etc, etc !!

  4. I would have snaffled that set of copper pans for sure!

  5. Several vendors had sets of copper pots, pans, and jam basins. There must not be much demand for them — I didn't see any get sold. Our friend S. had a set of copper pans for sale, but she said they most likely needed to be re-tinned. She said they were more decorative than practical. Don't copper pots and pans require a lot of maintenance work?

    CH, by stool do you mean that thing that looks like a high desk chair? I didn't even notice it, I guess. But I liked the little commode.

  6. This looks great. Sevilla has a flea market of sorts every Thursday morning on Calle Feria. Some fun stuff but an awful lot of complete junk that should simply be tossed. Yours looks so much better.

  7. Mitch, I didn't take pictures of the worst junk. Luckily, too, we had a very nice day for the event. Not too hot (how do you survive when 39C is a not-too-hot day?) and no rain.

  8. Oh boy, will we get to see photos of your new stuff?

  9. This is the time of year for the longest yard sale that starts in Alabama and goes all the way through Tennessee and maybe further.

    That little chest is cute. I like the tall cupboard next to it. Marie has one that is very handy for dishes and glassware. You don't see that design here in the states.

    Yes, like Judy I want to see your buys.

  10. Bonjour Ken !

    The "problem" in "les foires-à-tout" and "les vide-greniers" can arise from the presence of professional "brocanteurs" who arrive very early, as soon as the event is to start, and buy all the valuable items which can be found and then sell them at once at a higher price... Véronique, a friend of mine, was so sorry to have sold a nice "soupière" to one of these "brocanteurs" and see this item sold at a much higher price a few minutes later... The competition is not fair between private people who sell and the "brocanteurs"... I thought the professional "brocanteurs" were not allowed to take part in more than one "foire-à-tout"/"vide-grenier" a year but the following official link doesn't list such restrictions...


    Well, like Judith, I must say that I'd love to see the items you bought :-)
    Mary who enjoys the nice weather which has been ours in Normandy for a week

  11. Ken, you seem to be enjoying your "vacation." I don't think you've missed a day of posting since you started it. Keep up the good work.

  12. Ken

    Were those képis de gendarmes on sale also?

  13. Is that first photo an HDR?

  14. Hello Scyrene, I had to look up the acronym HDR to see what it meant. I guess my photo is not really an HDR (high dynamic range image) because I don't think my camera does that kind of photograph.

    Beav, I'm sure the képis were for sale but I didn't see or ask the price.

    Bob, I am enjoying my vacation. Thanks. For me, the vacation means no traveling, I guess — no touring around with visitors. Just puttering around house, yard, and garden. And blogging about it.

  15. HI, we were lucky to catch this event in 2014, missed it last year. We are not going to be in the area until the end of August this year? will we miss it again. Some websites say it takes place the 4th sunday in the August, some say it usually happens in the middle of August... would you know when it will happen this year?

    1. I've been trying to track down the 2016 vide-grenier in Saint-Aignan, but without much luck. The best information I can give you is this web page, which supposedly lists all the vide-greniers in the region over the next few months.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?